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CONTRIBUTION · 12th August 2010
Peter Ewart & Dawn Hemingway
It is simply outrageous. There is no other word for it. Indeed, the truly antidemocratic nature of the Campbell government is becoming more exposed every day.

Since the government began taking steps last year to impose the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), it has used one anti-democratic trick after another in a vain attempt to derail the widely popular citizens’ campaign against the tax.

Now we have the antics of the acting chief electoral officer of BC who is supposed to be “non-partisan” and “independent”. In a meeting with former Premier Bill Vander Zalm and FightHST, the newly-appointed chief announced that Fight HST had, indeed, collected enough signatures (over 700,000 throughout the province) to move to the next stage of the initiative process, which would either mean putting the initiative forward as legislation for a vote in the Legislature or a provincial referendum.

However, this same chief electoral officer also said in the meeting that, despite this unprecedented victory, the actual process will not go ahead until the legal challenges against the initiative are settled, which could take from two to three years. In the meantime, of course, the HST would continue to be collected.

Bill Vander Zalm called this ruling a blatant “stall tactic” that was likely encouraged by both the provincial government and the “big business group” that supports the tax (and launched one of the legal challenges).

Such a ruling clearly shows contempt and disrespect for the people of this province; and, especially all those thousands of volunteers who worked hard to make the anti-HST petition a success, as well as the over 700,000 people from all walks of life, from every corner of the province, who actually signed the petition.

Indeed, Bill Vander Zalm said, immediately after meeting with the chief electoral officer, that FightHST will not stand for this kind of stalling tactic, but will move to recall. “We will recall every Liberal MLA in the province if that’s what it takes, ” he said.

The ruling by the chief electoral officer of Elections BC raises an interesting question. If the anti-HST initiative legislation cannot even be considered until the court cases against it are decided, what about the legislation on all sorts of other issues that are regularly put on the agenda of the Legislature? Does it mean that any piece of legislation can be stopped by simply launching a legal challenge of some kind?

Such cannot be the case, otherwise the entire workings of the provincial government would come to a grinding halt.

Clearly, this latest maneuver to stall the initiative is unacceptable in a democratic society and must be challenged. Legislative processes cannot be held up by arbitrary measures. As the old saying goes, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Peter Ewart & Dawn Hemingway are regular contributors to and regularly submit their commentaries for us to republish.